Hair Test for Cushing Syndrome?

Cortisol levels in hair correlated strongly with standard tests

by Jeff Minerd
Contributing Writer, MedPage Today

Analyzing the levels of cortisol in hair may aid in the diagnosis of Cushing syndrome, perhaps one day replacing invasive blood tests, scientists said.

Cortisol levels in the proximal ends of hair samples taken from patients with the syndrome correlated strongly with blood tests (R=0.4; P=0.03) and urine tests (R=0.5; P=0.005) for cortisol, reported Mihail Zilbermint, MD, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues.

“The diagnosis of Cushing syndrome is often challenging and inconclusive, despite numerous tests used for the detection of hypercortisolemia and its origin, and is associated with high morbidity and high risk for mortality, if undiagnosed and untreated,” Zilbermint and colleagues wrote online in Endocrine: International Journal of Basic and Clinical Endocrinology.

“As a potential solution to the limitations of these tests, hair cortisol has been increasingly studied as an additional means to diagnose patients with Cushing Syndrome. Much like hemoglobin A1C is a longitudinal marker of blood glucose levels, hair cortisol can be a measure of the body’s glucocorticoid levels over the previous several weeks to months.”

“Our results are encouraging,” Zilbermint said in a statement. “We are hopeful that hair analysis may ultimately prove useful as a less-invasive screening test for Cushing syndrome or in helping to confirm the diagnosis.”

The study included 30 patients with Cushing syndrome and six control individuals without the disease. The participants’ average age was 26, and 75% were female and 75% were Caucasian.

The investigators took 3 cm-long hair samples from all patients, analyzed the proximal, medial, and distal segments of the samples for cortisol, and compared the results with results of standard blood and urine tests. Cortisol levels were highest in the proximal segments and correlated best with the standard tests, the investigators reported.

“We found that proximal hair cortisol directly correlates with late night serum cortisol and UFC [urinary free cortisol] in patients with and without Cushing syndrome. The most proximal 1 cm of hair was the best section of hair for stratifying the two groups of patients in our cohort.

“These findings support further research on the use of this modality in the workup for Cushing syndrome.”

Regarding the study’s limitations, the team pointed to the small control group of only six patients. Another limitation is that more than half of the participants (58%) were younger than age 18, and pubertal status on cortisol metabolism may be a factor in hair cortisol measurement.

“However, our study’s strengths are that it is the largest sample so far to analyze segmental hair cortisol in Cushing syndrome, and that it is the largest study to compare hair cortisol to any biochemical test for hypercortisolemia in patients with Cushing syndrome,” Zilbermint and colleagues said. “Our study also included a large cohort of Cushing Disease patients, which has been under-represented in prior studies on hair cortisol.”

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Zilbermint and colleagues reported having no relevant financial relationships with industry.

Cushing’s: Update on signs, symptoms and biochemical screening

10.1530/EJE-15-0464

  1. Lynnette Nieman⇑

+Author Affiliations


  1. L Nieman, RBMB, NIH, Bethesda, 20817-1109, United States
  1. Correspondence: Lynnette Nieman, Email: niemanl@mail.nih.gov

Abstract

Endogenous pathologic hypercortisolism, or Cushing’s syndrome, is associated with poor quality of life, morbidity and increased mortality. Early diagnosis may mitigate against this natural history of the disorder.

The clinical presentation of Cushing’s syndrome varies, in part related to the extent and duration of cortisol excess. When hypercortisolism is severe, its signs and symptoms are unmistakable. However, most of the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are common in the general population (e.g. hypertension and weight gain) and not all are present in every patient.

In addition to classical features of glucocorticoid excess, such as proximal muscle weakness and wide purple striae, patients may present with the associated co-morbidities that are caused by hypercortisolism. These include cardiovascular disease, thromboembolic disease, psychiatric and cognitive deficits, and infections. As a result, internists and generalists must consider Cushing’s syndrome as a cause, and endocrinologists should search for and treat these co-morbidities.

Recommended tests to screen for Cushing’s syndrome include 1 mg dexamethasone suppression, urine free cortisol and late night salivary cortisol. These may be slightly elevated in patients with physiologic hypercortisolism, which should be excluded, along with exogenous glucocorticoid use. Each screening test has caveats and the choice of tests should be individualized based on each patient’s characteristics and lifestyle.

The objective of this review was to update the readership on the clinical and biochemical features of Cushing’s syndrome that are useful when evaluating patients for this diagnosis.

Read the entire manuscript at http://www.eje-online.org/content/early/2015/07/08/EJE-15-0464.full.pdf+html

Cushing’s Awareness Challenge: Day 11

robin-uncontrolled

Robin has shared this quote from Dr. Prevedallo.  You can read more at the link at http://brainsurgery.upmc.com/_pdf/Review-of-Endocrin-Cushings.pdf

Over the years, I have seen that this is true, sometimes even for controlled Cushing’s.  Far too many Cushies have died.

Here are some of those that I know of:

Cushing’s is a terrible disease.

There is another Cushie I should add to this list. During the time I was home from NIH just before pituitary surgery, a college classmate of mine (I didn’t know her) did die at NIH of a Cushing’s-related problem. I’m so glad I didn’t find out until a couple months later!  I still have the college alumni magazine that mentioned this.  I’ll have to find that and add it to the In Memory list.

My husband shared a bit about her in my bio:

During the same time Mary was at NIH, another woman had the same operation. She came from Mary’s home town. They were class mates at college. They had the same major. They were the same age. They had the same surgical and medical team. Mary recovered. The other woman died during surgery.

 

I know we’re always fighting with doctors to get diagnosed, to get treated but reading the stories of these people will hopefully inspire people to fight even harder to be heard.

Stay safe – don’t get added to this list!

8e1d2-maryo_colorful_zebra

 

Polycystic ovarian syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome: A persistent diagnostic quandary

European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 02/10/2014  Clinical Article

Brzana J, et al. – This study aims to retrospectively review institutional records of female patients of reproductive age with Cushing’s disease (CD) and determine if and how many had been previously diagnosed as having solely PCOS. To determine whether clinical patterns might be useful in identifying appropriate candidates for hypercortisolism screening in women suspected of PCOS. Prolonged exposure to hypercortisolism has been linked with increased mortality and morbidity. Tests for hypercortisolism in all the PCOS cases authors report led to an appropriate CD diagnosis. Future research should focus on when and which (if not all) women with suspected PCOS should be tested for hypercortisolism.

Methods

  • The study included 50 patients with pathologically proven CD at Oregon Health & Science University, Northwest Pituitary Center between 2006 and 2011.
  • Physical, clinical, and biochemical features for hypercortisolism were compared.

Results

  • Of 50 patients with pathologically proven CD, 26 were women of reproductive age.
  • Of these, half had previously been diagnosed with and treated initially solely for PCOS.
  • Hirsutism and menstrual abnormalities were more common in the group with an initial PCOS diagnosis than in the group with an initial CD diagnosis.

From http://www.mdlinx.com/endocrinology/newsl-article.cfm/5055779/ZZ4747461521296427210947/?news_id=2364&newsdt=021014&subspec_id=1509&utm_source=Focus-On&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_content=Top-New-Article&utm_campaign=article-section

Cushing’s Syndrome is Hazardous to Your Health

morbidity

People with Cushing’s syndrome, even when treated, have higher morbidity and mortality rates that comparable controls. That is the conclusion of a new study published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism. The study by Olaf Dekkers et al, examined data records from the Danish National Registry of Patients and the Danish Civil Registration System of 343 patients with benign Cushing’s syndrome of adrenal or pituitary origin (i.e., Cushing’s disease) and a matched population comparison cohort (n=34,300).  Due to the lengthy delay of many patients being diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome, morbidity was investigated in the 3 years before diagnosis while  morbidity and mortality were assessed during complete follow-up after diagnosis and treatment.

The study found that mortality was twice as high in Cushing’s syndrome patients (HR 2.3, 95% CI 1.8-2.9) compared with controls over a mean follow-up period of 12.1 years. Furthermore, patients with Cushing’s syndrome were at increased risk for:

  • venous thromboembolism (HR 2.6, 95% CI 1.5-4.7)
  • myocardial infarction (HR 3.7, 95% CI 2.4-5.5)
  • stroke (HR 2.0, 95% CI 1.3-3.2)
  • peptic ulcers (HR 2.0, 95% CI 1.1-3.6)
  • fractures (HR 1.4, 95% CI 1.0-1.9)
  • infections (HR 4.9, 95% CI 3.7-6.4).

The study also found that this increased multimorbidity risk was present before diagnosis indicating that it was due to cortisol overproduction rather than treatment.

Many of the Cushing’s syndrome patients underwent surgery to remove the benign tumor. For this group, the investigators performed a sensitivity analysis of the  long-term mortality and cardiovascular risk in this  subgroup (n=186)  considered to be cured after operation (adrenal surgery and patients with pituitary surgery in combination with a diagnosis of hypopituitarism in the first 6 months after operation).  The risk estimates for mortality (HR 2.31, 95% CI 1.62-3.28), venous thromboembolism (HR 2.03, 95% CI 0.75-5.48), stroke (HR 1.91, 95% CI 0.90-4.05), and acute myocardial infarction (HR 4.38, 95% CI 2.31-8.28) were also increased in this subgroup one year after the operation.

The standard treatment for endogenous Cushing’s syndrome is surgery. This past year, Signifor (pasireotide) was approved for treatment of adults patients with Cushing’s disease for whom pituitary surgery is not an option or has not been curative.  Cushing’s disease, which accounts for the majority of Cushing’s syndrome patients, is defined as the presence of an ACTH producing tumor on the pituitary grand. In the study by Dekker’s et al, the percentage of patients with Cushing’s disease is not known. We look forward to reexamination of this dataset in a few years following the introduction of more treatment options for Cushing’s disease as well as an analysis that explores the differences in mortality/morbidity rates in the different subsets of patients that make of Cushing’s syndrome (Cushing’s disease, ectopic Cushing’s syndrome, Exogenous Cyshing’s syndrome).

References

Dekkers OM, Horvath-Pujo, Jorgensen JOL, et al, Multisystem morbidity and mortality in Cushing’s syndrome: a cohort study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2013 98(6): 2277–2284. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-3582

– See more at: http://www.raredr.com/medicine/articles/cushing%E2%80%99s-syndrome-hazardous-your-health-0

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